MediaStorm founder and executive producer, Brian Storm, started the evening by welcoming the audience to the event and then quickly turning to the films, first screening Rite of Passage by Maggie Steber, then Phillip Toledano’s A Shadow Remains.
After watching the films, Brian invited Phillip, Maggie, and one of the films’ producers, Tim McLaughlin, (producers Jennifer Redfearn and Rob Finch were not able to attend the event) to the stage for a Q&A with the audience.
Before opening the floor to questions, Brian explained how the projects came to be. He initially approached both Maggie and Phillip about working together on their pieces over four years ago, in April 2008. At first neither Maggie nor Phillip agreed, Maggie just “wasn’t ready,” explained Brian, and Phillip did not respond to Brian’s early emails (something Brian joked continued to be a theme in their relationship). After time though, Brian was able to get both of them on board to produce two strong, intimate pieces.
The first audience member to speak during the Q&A summed up her experience of the evening saying, “I cried for an hour. I started the night with cabernet and now I’m on to a whiskey sour.” She followed her comment by asking Maggie and Phillip what it was like to be the focus of their own work, especially such honest and vulnerable pieces.
Phillip answered first in his typical fashion–with a joke–saying, “I love it.” But he followed with an honest answer, calling it “excruciating,” and explaining that it’s much easier to talk about such personal things when not in front of people.
Maggie agreed that it is hard to feel so exposed. She continued by explaining that photographers always ask their subjects to be vulnerable for their cameras. “We go deeply into their lives,” she explained. “We also need to be vulnerable, otherwise the work’s not honest.” She explained that sometimes the vulnerability can touch people and hopefully convince them that it’s worthwhile to do difficult things, in this case, “to be the warrior for your parent.”
An audience member then asked Brian and Tim if they were affected by the process as filmmakers.
Tim answered first, saying, “You can’t help but take on some of the vulnerability when working with people as open as Phil and Maggie.” He explained that it affected him deeply to be making two films about family while preparing for his own wedding (he was married just a few weeks before the launch event). At such an important time in his life it made him think deeply about what his new family will be like, and the eventual passing of his parents.
Brian agreed with Tim, saying, “all of our pieces affect me.” He explained that MediaStorm films try to depict the “human condition”–something that people can relate to, articulate and hopefully see themselves in, and not in a fleeting way. Brian said, “these stories matter. In 20, 30, or 40 years from now they will still matter.”
You can see a full album of photos from the event on Facebook. Thank you to everyone who attended the event and made it a great success!